Notice Me

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Come look at me, they cry out. Little voices calling, tiny hands reaching for my own much larger one. Watch me on the money bars, the slide, the firepole. Watch me! Notice Me! See me!

A little one comes up to me, (I know not who she is), but she has a sweet innocent face and the clearest eyes—it is almost that I can see right through to her soul. And she is calling out to me.

Watch me, she says.

I watch.

I follow her little body as it rounds the Jungle Gym, makes its way up the stairs and ends up at the tippy-top of the Fire Pole. She glances over at me to make sure that my eyes are fixed on her. They are indeed. When she is sure that I will not waver in my gaze, she grasps the pole and wraps her little legs around securely. Woosh. She is down in a second and off and running to a new adventure.

To teach is to examine humanity at its rawest, most unadulterated form. Children are a study in innocence and purity. They are authentic and genuine. And what they want more than anything is for us to notice. They want for us to notice them, notice their antics, their comings and goings. To be attentive. To watch and consider their ways. To be mindful. To be aware of what it is they care about.

Children want us to see them.

We all want this, if we were truthful. We want to be seen. We crave recognition. My own child comes home from school today and says in passing that it is easy to get lost in the sea of bodies.

No one can really notice you for all the people, says the Child.

It takes practice to notice people. I have written the following and I stand by these words today:

“We are not taught to notice, we are taught to do. Told to get out our pencil and pens. Get out our paper, and write. Read. Discuss. Speak. Told to turn to page five and then fashion a paragraph. Told to answer six questions on page 32.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to act. Told to cut and shape. Mold and make. Told to fashion that school bus craft just as we’re told. Told to fold the paper along the crease. Told to colour in the lines.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to perform. Told to sit right, listen up, shut up, straighten up, fly right. Told to mind our manners, watch our tongue, keep it down, watch out.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to produce. To achieve, churn out, give up, construct and generate.
But we are not taught to notice.
Have we ever stopped to consider that noticing precedes doing? And yet, we are not taught that this act in itself is essential. We are encouraged rather to act. To get things done. To carry out both our will as well as that of those in authority over us.”

We must take time to notice. Our children are pleading for us to do them this one humanitarian service. We must notice them with our whole being, eyes and ears wide open. Watching them not with a gaze of half-hearted interest, but with a whole-hearted, complete understanding of the incredible gift of attentiveness and genuine care with which we’ve been vested.

Noticing takes time and practice. It demands our attention. We must be deliberate and intentional in our practice. But the pay off for our children in investing this service is mind-boggling.

Who can even imagine (can conjure up the images) the gifts that even one child could offer to the world someday…and all because we took the seconds, minutes, hours…took the time:

To really notice.

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15 Things I Know About Being a Parent

Parenting is, of course, the most consuming, challenging and exhausting task that I have ever involved myself in. Some days I ask: “what were we thinking???” And on the other days, I just don’t ask. And speaking of “we”, I readily admit that marriage is a very close second in this listing of difficult things known to humankind.

It was fifteen years ago today that I first became a mother. And how well I remember that incredible day—the moments of fear when I faced the unknowns, the moments of elation when I realized what I had gained. Holding that tiny 6 lb. 7 1/2 ounce baby boy swaddled in a receiving blanket, I knew a love I had never known before. I knew a fierce need to shelter and protect that I had heretofore never experienced. I knew so much in that instant I saw his precious baby face.

I knew so little.

Sons are interesting characters. They cling close to their mamas until they reach toddler stage, and then they can’t seem to get enough of their dads. Dads hold the world in the palms of their hands, or so it seems to bright-eyed little boys. I have watched my son and his dad grow closer over the years, and I am so thankful that they have each other. Particularly in light of the fact that they are also outnumbered in our family of six (complete with four girls). This relationship they share is a gift, one not to be taken lightly. I know neither does; never would they.

In honor of my son’s 15th birthday and due to the fact that it is also the anniversary of my 15th year being a mama, here are 15 things I know now that I didn’t know back then…

1.) Every moment is a gift, and of course meant to be cherished; but some moments are meant to just be ‘lived’, and then we move on. We don’t have to make everything special. Everything extraordinary. Sometimes life is just meant to be experienced mundanely, in the everyday ordinary routine of life. This too is precious.

2.) Kids don’t always need entertainment; the more entertainment/amusement, the less imagination/creativity (at least in the world I grew up in—which means it still holds true for my Fearless Four. Because I say so.).

3.) Sincere apologies are best taught through humble parental modeling.

4.) Some things like burps and flatulence and mysterious smells from the bathroom and spilled popcorn on the bed and Vaseline on the couch and chocolate chips all over the floor and canned goods on top of the baby…and the like: these things (while startling) are not worth blowing a gasket/major artery over. Live and learn.

5.) Seeing your child show kindness to others will make your heart swell in ways that temporary academic or sporting accomplishments never could.

6.) Patience is a virtue, but when in short supply, time-outs for mama in the bathroom/quick exits from the scene of disaster also work.

7.) Four kids is a lot of kids. But then again, so was one.

8.) The question “will I love the second (third, fourth) as much” is entirely not worth entertaining for even one little second; the answer is always yes, Yes, YES! : “to the moon and back again.” Every single time.

9.) Sometimes Mamas make mistakes. Moving on…

10.) Screaming is not the most effective form of communication.

11.) Mamas are not meant to be their childrens’ best friends (that is, until said offspring start to pay for their own bills and have an income. When this miracle occurs, the boundaries are redefined).

12.) The crucial life lessons your mama taught you about responsibility, safety, security and common sense (lessons and rules that you loathed back when you were ages 5-19): they will fall from your own tongue like pearls of wisdom to your precious babies AS IF IN YOUR OWN FORMER CHILDISH OPINION THEY WERE ALWAYS GOLDEN.

13.) There is next to nothing you will not do for your child, including acting like an idiot in public on occasion (think: jumping up and down at photo shoots), going to the ends of the earth for them and resorting to begging/bartering on their behalf. Incidentally, these rules do not always apply after fifteen years parenting as you have prioritized your ability to please and thus included yourself in this lottery.

14.) Parenting in year one is very different than parenting in year fifteen. For one thing, where you once were completely trusting and naïve, now you are a bit of a sly old shrew. Also, you are more sarcastic.

15.) You realize that although there are still some days you threaten to jump ship and escape to the nearest available carnival troupe, there is nothing on this beautiful planet you would rather be doing than mothering four of the brightest, most beautiful children God’s Hands ever fashioned. And that is the plain and simple truth.

Parenting has been said to be “one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love” (Nicholas Sparks). I am thankful for the ways in which my heart has learned to expand and grow in four different directions these past 15 years.

To my Son: I will love you and your three sisters forever and always. I love you all- to the moon and back again.

Guard Your Heart


Dear Daughter,
I watch you, bare feet running. Long hair swinging. Bright smile shining. Those slender legs that keep you chasing after baseballs, basketballs, volleyballs and bouncy balls. Those hands that touch the keys on our beautiful piano. Hands that swiftly know how to plait a braid of gold or twist a strand of chestnut brown into a bun. You are such a beauty. And I often think how precious you are to me. Right now. Right this moment.
But of course you always have been.
That beautiful baby girl I held in my arms the day after Mother’s Day, thirteen short years past. Tiny bundle of love. Little dark head, which I tucked inside a crocheted pink bonnet no bigger than my palm, two ribbons of pink gently tied beneath your elfin chin. Petite frame- so small that the health nurse wondered if you were starving. Your mama worried she wasn’t feeding you enough, so we supplemented and prayed it would be enough. So much to take in with a fragile baby girl cradled carefully in my arms.
I loved you then. I love you still. I love you even more.
That little toddler who waddled around our house, two fingers firmly fixed inside her little rosebud lips. White blankie trailing close behind. Always ready with an impish smile. That little princess, wearing tutus and fancy dresses and all things frilly and extravagant. The little diva, a girl who always had time for a show, but never wanted to get her own hair brushed. Singing, dancing, performing, entertaining- it was your business many an evening after supper dishes were cleaned and things settled down a notch. Her daddy’s heart wrapped around her baby finger.
That little girl. Where did those tender years go?
After all the gymnastic lessons, figure skating, swimming and soccer days have ended, the elementary school years passed, we are now left staring wide-eyed into the next phase of your life: the teen-aged years.
You are so loved- you always have been. And sweetheart, you always will be. You are ours.
You’ve always been so precious.
Darling Daughter, you are just too precious not to caution and advise. I want you to know that a mama always thinks of what lies just around the corner. And what I see is this:
All things shiny and appealing, but which are not always revealed exactly as they seem.
All things fascinating and interesting, but which are not so exciting as they might offer to be.
All things promising and thrilling, but which are not always as stirring as might have first been pledged.
All things previously prohibited and forbidden, but which now beckon to you with enticement and allure.
All these things- they are not always what they claim to be. There will be lies, false claims and misrepresentations. There will be promises made that might not endure the test of time. Words spoken that will prove to be short-lived and disappointing. Arrangements agreed upon that will not necessarily be followed through. This is the reality of the passage of time and growing up. It is part of the world we belong to: broken promises, shattered dreams and ruined opportunities.
Sometimes in the growing process the floor falls beneath us and our world seems to be caving in around us. This is part and parcel of growing older. There is always the good. But there is the bad as well.
In all of these growing pains, there is one thing of which I must insist. That is, you must work to always keep your heart from damage and harm. And darling, there is only one way to protect your heart. If you can covenant to yourself and to our God that this heart of yours is worth protecting, that it is truly as precious and valued as your daddy and I say it is- that God Himself has said: then you will learn the secret. The secret to nurturing a heart is to safeguard it against anything you know that could intentionally harm it. Guard your heart as if it were fashioned from the most valuable material known to humankind. For in truth- it is. It is the most important part of you. It is where your soul meets before God Himself. It is sacred and holy and precious.
It is the most precious place that lies within you.
Sweetheart, guard your heart as if your life depended on this very act of purposeful intention.
You are getting taller. You are stretching and blossoming into a beautiful young woman. You are no longer my little girl- now my teenager; and we are entering through passageways to different rooms that serve to welcome and greet us both. We are learning how to take this journey together, and I pray we will always walk side-by-side in this excursion. Pray that you will always walk by His side in this journey.
While I learn to let go of your hand little by little, you are coming to find ways in which to hold on to His hand more and more. A Hand so much greater than my own.
I love you now. I will love you still.
Guard your precious heart.
Love ,
Your mama

Let the Children Play


When he gets frustrated, he uses the puppets to talk out his feelings. We role play, he and I. This is not time for academics, paper and pencil. This is pure, unadulterated imagination. He needs it; oh, how he needs this opportunity to freely play. Unstructured. Liberated from the confines of classroom protocol, even if but for mere moments. He talks to me with his hands, showing me that he needs this time to unwind. To imagine. To portray. And I am listening carefully, reading in between the blurred lines, so as to understand all the reasons why this matters so very much.

A while back, another one used to wander the hallways. He never seemed to have a sense of commitment to any one room, any one place. Flitting here and there, we would find him where he was least expected. Now he spends that time that he formerly used to wander, playing. He pretends that he is a ‘cop’ or a salesman. He makes intricate creations out of chain links. He reads books and plays office. He loves to imagine, and his teachers report that the behaviours that were formerly front and center have vanished. Could it be because of play?

These little people, young learners: they crave the time allotted for play. The boys do especially, but certainly the girls too. Each day, when that time comes- when that hour arrives: they relish it like it is their last supper. When playtime is over, they ask, “It is over so soon? It’s already done?” It seems unbelievable to them that their beloved Centers have now ended- as it appears to them that play only had just begun. That’s how it is with playful learning, how it is with inquiry-based learning: time passes along and you don’t even know where it has gone.
Play is just that subtle and unobtrusive in scope, yet vital and necessary in its impact to really make the difference between children doing well and children doing poorly.

According to Christina Hoff Sommers of Time magazine,

“Prolonged confinement in classrooms diminishes children’s concentration and leads to squirming and restlessness. And boys appear to be more seriously affected by recess deprivation than girls. “Parents should be aware,” warn two university researchers, “that classroom organization may be responsible for their sons’ inattention and fidgeting and that breaks may be a better remedy than Ritalin.”

Angela Hanscom writing for the TimberNook blog says,

“Fidgeting is a real problem. It is a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We need to fix the underlying issue. Recess times need to be extended and kids should be playing outside as soon as they get home from school. Twenty minutes of movement a day is not enough! They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.”

According to a document drawn up for the Canadian Council on Learning by Early Childhood Education Program Chair, Par Jane Hewes, play is undervalued and all children’s opportunities for free play are under threat (both for the boys as well as the girls). She says:

In recent years, the trend has been to introduce more content via direct instruction into the practice of early-
childhood professionals. Research demonstrates that this approach, while promising in the short term, does not
sustain long-term benefits and, in fact, has a negative impact on some young children.17 Long uninterrupted
blocks of time for children to play – by themselves and with peers, indoors and outdoors – are becoming increasingly rare.  The developmental literature is clear: play stimulates physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development
in the early years. Children need time, space, materials,and the support of informed parents and thoughtful,
skilled early-childhood educators in order to become “master players.”18 They need time to play for the sake
of playing.

She goes on to add the following:

There are unique and fundamental developmental benefits that derive from spontaneous free
play. The child’s experience of intrinsic motivation in play is fundamental to successful life-long learning. Play is a valid learning experience in and of itself – albeit one that has been difficult to justify and sustain in formal educational settings.

I don’t know the all the reasons for why kids are finding school to be a place they feel lost. But I can imagine that if I were a child, I would probably not be able to get through my day without a diversion of some sort. Some kind of escape that could whisk me away from reality even if only for a moment or two. That’s why teens and adults love social media so much- it is our chance to play. We all need an outlet in our life, and for most of us, we find that relief from the busyness of life and reality through play, whatever ideal that particular form of play conforms to.

After all:

“Young children learn the most important things not by being told but by constructing knowledge for themselves in interaction with the physical world and with other children – and the way they do this is by playing.”
Source: Jones, E., & Reynolds, G. (1992).
The play’s the
thing: Teachers’ roles in children’s play, p. 1

With this in mind, can’t we just let the children play?

Dear Teachers (About THESE students, one of whom is my son…)

Dear Teachers,

I am the mother of four beautiful children, all unique and wonderful in their own individual ways. One of my children is an extreme introvert. When I think of him, I often wonder how he might be perceived, might be viewed in connection to his teacher’s perspective. But this blog is not about a teacher’s perspective. It is about a mother’s.

This is my story- a story about being a mother to my son.

When my son first entered school, I lost natural hair color through worry. Stressing about his ride to school (where he was exposed to things like soft porn found in magazines the bigger boys read, exposed to language and stories children in our home would otherwise never have heard), stressing over his day at school (I will never forget the day I picked him up, wet with another boy’s urine: a bully incident which happened during an unsupervised visit to the men’s room), stressing about whether he had someone to talk to on the playground ( I hoped for the best), someone to play with during center time (I had co-ordinated with another mother to protect for this very thing). Stressing about that bus ride back home again (would he lose his hat again to a game of toss?).

Stressing. Because I knew my son. And I knew that school might not be the kindest place for him to grow and flourish.

Add to the outside factors in a school that might influence a child was the fact that my son was an introvert. I don’t know if his initial school experience was typical or not, as he is my only boy and I merely have his one experience to go on.  But, I am starting to wonder, what with all the things that have been shared one with another via social media.  Although the variables might change from child to child, there are certainly some parallels to be found when it comes to the experience of THESE children. Introverts. The ones who just pass through the system largely invisible.

My boy worried himself about school from the get-go.  His first day home from kindergarten, I waited patiently under the old maple tree, picking at the moss growing along the spreading roots.  I watched the bus go by, and then watched as it swung back again, up our side road, dropping my son off at the end of the lane.  And, as eagerly as I chased him down to hear stories about the first of all experiences at school, he equalled my enthusiasm in stridency, storming passed me, eyebrows in a furrow.  Pounding feet against the stone walkway, as he stormed into the house.  It is a memory I will never forget. How I wished we could both sit in the late summer breeze sharing with each other all the wonderful things he’d done, all the magical experiences he’d been part of.  But he had other priorities, other needs. He had some unwinding to do. And school for him wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Grade 1 was even harder.  He clung to my leg for the better part of forty-five minutes that first day.  He was anxious, worried about making friends: scared of being alone and frightened of me leaving.  I held a Little One on my hip and clasped another toddler with my free hand.  Three little bodies stuck to me like crazy glue.  And while I tried to un-peel his little hands, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.”  It was awkward, and I knew there would be eyebrows raised. My child was the leech and I, his seemingly over-protective parent.  I felt that pressure to let go his hand, even as my mother instinct was telling me, “No!  We’re both not ready for this step.”  And yet, I let his hand slip first, turned and abruptly walked away.  Hoping for the best.

Each year got both easier and harder.  He began to distance himself emotionally from me, no more clinging.  But there were new worries to be had.  There were adaptations to classroom structure to fret over.  Homework routines to make and then stick to.   And the issue of his making and finding friendship to add to the mother lode.  Not to mention the usual childhood rite of on-going bullying to endure, a rite that helped to establish the playground pecking order and the seating arrangement on the bus. Somehow, he found himself on the bottom of that pile-up. Never the ring-leader, often the victim.

Woven into each additional year was the stress of performance anxiety he placed on himself.  He was not a behaviour challenge inside the school setting.  In fact, quite the opposite. His teachers raved about his smarts and his ability to focus. His quiet, calm demeanor.  But, there was something awry that I just couldn’t seem to put my finger on at the time.  It seemed to be the combination of his trying to find his place in this new world of norms, along with trying to please both his peers and the adults around him, along with the very high expectations he placed on himself.  All combined, becoming a triple threat of trouble.   Perhaps the most taxing of all these three was the pressure he placed on himself to stay in tip-top academic shape, as that was often the only area of schooling he was able to truly control, the only thing he felt really positive about in his school experience.

And so, school became difficult.  Tedious.  Even dreaded.

And although my son has succeeded academically (he is now in Grade 9), there are many ways in which I feel he has fallen through the cracks.  Because he is prone to performance anxiety on a personal level, but also because in a more general way, he is an introvert.  And sometimes introverts and school can make for a complicated combination.

Sure, everyone admires your child because they are GOOD. Agreeable and easy and compliant. But you wonder if that same child of yours is just kind of drifting through the years, classroom to classroom- never really known for who they truly are on the inside. Merely acknowledged for the ease at which they have put their teacher. For that is what seems to matter. The ease to which we are placed. When something or someone is easy, we give that thing or person less attention. Less time and thought. It makes perfect sense, to be honest. Why fret about something that isn’t a problem? Yes, it makes perfect sense. Except when it is your child you are talking about.

When it is your child falling through the cracks.

Truth: it is difficult by times to peer inside an introverted child’s world and really understand what that world is like. Difficult to really see that child for the package they are. And unless one is willing to take the time to see the children who are quiet and easy and compliant as needing of equal time and effort to everyone else in the class, one will never understand there is more to them than just a smiling face and quiet demeanor.

These children are equal in importance to everyone else in the room. Does this mean the same treatment? No. It just means that they too deserve their teacher’s time and attention, however that might play out in a given day.

All kids are deserving. And this child of mine is no exception.


The Mom

This one is for the boys… (MEN)

I heard from a man-friend of mine tonight that I don’t really write with a male audience in mind. So this one’s (mostly) for the boys.
For the men.
I want to write about everyday heroes. Because tonight in West Prince, where I live with my family of six, there are some men (and yes, women too) on call all night long with our local volunteer fire department ready to rush out at a moment’s notice to put out fires that immature, thoughtless pranksters lit with no consideration to the everyday heroes that would have to put them out. Men (and yes, women) who have a day job. Men and women who will stay up all night- on call and many of those hours on the job fighting fierce winds and fires), only to get up in the morning to head off to their day job. Because being a hero doesn’t always pay the bills. Funny about that.
I want to write about the men that are everyday heroes in so many ways. The men in my circle of friends that took the time tonight to take their kiddos out trick-or-treating. You men are amazing. You drove your kids in and out of fifty-bazillion driveways just so that they could run around your house before bedtime like crazed zombies on sugar highs. And you did it because you care. Because you’re everyday heroes.
I want to write about the dads that made their child’s costumes this year. I know of one child, a friend of the family’s, whose Dad made her a minion costume. That dad rocks. He’s my hero. I am a mom- I don’t have time for that stuff. But dads do.
I want to write about everyday heroes- dads that let their kids crash in their beds tonight because they’re scared of boogie monsters and goblins and ghosts and who knows what else. Dads that are willing to give up a good night’s sleep so that their child can rest easy- assured that they are safe and protected. Real dads do this stuff all the time. I know. I am married to one.
I want to write about everyday heroes. Men that build things for their kids. Men that show up for soccer games, hockey practices, piano recitals. I want to write about the dads that pack lunches for their kids. According to very particular specifications, in certain cases. These dads know who likes mayo and who likes mustard. They’re everyday heroes.
I want to write about the dads that commute to work over long distances to make ends meet. I want to write about the dads that take paternal leave. Those dads that are stay-at-home dads. You guys…all of you: you knock my socks off. I am so blessed by these dads. Thanks for making the sacrifice.
You are everyday heroes.
My kids go to bed every night knowing their dad is going to read them a bedtime story and say their prayers with them before their head hits the pillow. They know that if they needed him in the night- he’s there. They know that when they wake up in the morning, they’ll find him in the kitchen, making breakfast. They know that on the weekends, he’ll be chopping wood so that we have a warm, cozy house this winter. And they know that if they ever need strong arms to hold and care, his are always ready.
This one’s for the dads- you are unsung heroes and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Thanks for everything.

Happy 13th Birthday, Sam!

My son is celebrating his thirteenth birthday this month.  I can hear him up in his room right now playing risk with two of his cousins, and my heart just swells with love.  Here are thirteen things I now know- that I didn’t know then…and all because of becoming Sam’s Mama.

  • I know more of patience now than I ever did back in the year 2000.  I was so young and so impatient.  I was not really yet aware that life is about taking deep breaths, counting to ten and exhaling.  I know that now.
  • I know more of understanding.  I thought I knew, but I didn’t even know the half of it.  I am so aware now that learning to understand other people and even myself is a process that takes a lifetime.  I love relating to my son in this special way- through identifying with him, reflecting on what ways we are the same and what ways we are different.  He has been a treasure trove of discovery for me and has made me more self-aware and more people aware than I ever was thirteen years ago.
  • I know more of compromise.  Man, did I ever learn about give-and-take over the past thirteen years.  Mostly about give, but isn’t that the best part!  I learned that sometimes I need to pick my battles and sometimes I need to just walk away.  Sometimes I need to lean in to the hurt, and sometimes I need to just smile and reach out my arms in an embrace.
  • I know more of compassion.  I have learned so very much about this one.  About empathy and caring and kindness.  The other night, my beloved son took my rough, cracked feet in his hands and rubbed out the pain.  He was my masseuse for about forty-five minutes.  That’s compassion.  And I am learning so very much about how to be compassionate and caring even as I watch him interacting with me and those whom he meets.
  • I know more of listening.  I take five to ten minutes each night and I try to lay down with each of my children.  As Sam is the oldest, I usually save him for last.  I love that bedtime chats are so chill.  There is so little pressure to say anything profound.  No need to argue and sway the other’s point of view.  All that’s necessary is a listening ear.  We draw closer when we listen better.
  • I know more of sharing.  Mostly, I share everything now.  It started when I shared a tiny space inside with four little Gard babies.  And what’s mine is theirs- and has been, ever since.
  • I know more of forgetting.  I have a really, really hard time with this one.  But today, as I proudly watch my son- knowing what a fine young man he’s grown into, I am a little more inclined to forget those other moments.  The ones where he and I disagreed.  Where we clashed.  And to disallow those moments where we were not on our best game- because life is about remembering what’s golden.  And sometimes choosing to forget what’s not.
  • I know more of forgiving- and being forgiven.  Children are among the most forgiving people on the planet.  They love so unconditionally.  I wish sometimes I could be a three-year old again.  They are so amazing at this- forgiving and moving on.  My son has had to forgive me so many times- I couldn’t even begin to count.  He is amazing at this.  And I am learning more and more of how to perfect an attitude of forgiveness in my life as well.
  • I know a (little) more of relaxing.  Not much, but a little.  I even stopped the housework today to play x-box with my kids.  And that’s saying a lot.
  • I know more of loving.  Loving isn’t easy.  It’s hard work.  Whoever says it isn’t is…either lying or freaking superhuman.  I think love is hard.  But I can do hard things.  And hard things are often the most rewarding, when you think about it.  Raising four children is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most blessed experiences of my life.  Do I love every minute of it?  Nope.  But I love the people I am committed to.  And that makes it a wee bit easier.
  • I know more of being present, of being in the moment.  I am trying to work on this one too (do I really know anything, or just think I do???), but being in the moment for me is stopping my own agenda and noticing what is going on around me.  Like the spider crawling across her web.  Like a mother cat carrying her kitten.  Like watching my youngest write a story- face scrunched up in concentration.  Or noticing the expression on a child’s face when their feelings have been hurt.  Or being in tune with that child who is not feeling comfortable and settled.  It’s being present in those happy and sad moments.  And letting time stand still, even if for but a moment.
  • I know more about parenting.  I think.  Parenting has been a gig that I thought I could learn from a combination of watching TLC, reading those What To Expect Books and listening to my mother.  In the end, I had to learn things the hard way.  Trial and error.  Along with a little help from a blog I now read faithfully.
  • I know more about purpose.  My purpose in life is to live well.  To live nobly, faithfully and compassionately.  To live worthy of my calling before my God.  Before my family and before my beloved children.  I have been called to be a mama.  I don’t think callings are ever easy.  They require sacrifice and courage- something else I wasn’t very good at thirteen years ago.  But, I am learning.  And I am trying to be faithful to that which I have been called to do- to live my life well.  And to be the best mama I can possibly be.  That best runs the gamut.  Some days, being the best me is not screaming at my kids and trying to be civil at least 50 % of the time.  On other days, the best me throws slammin’ birthday parties like it’s 1999.  My best varies.  But, what never varies is the purpose.  And that purpose has been my driving force throughout my life.  Being a mother didn’t change that purpose.  It just made it deeper.  Richer.  And more widely encompassing.



I love you, Samuel.  I remember little scrawny you the day after you were born.  I remember feeling I could never love so much or so hard.  But I was wrong.  Today, I love you more.

How to love the boy…

He sits beside me.  Calm, quiet-like.  In between me and his father.   I have just nestled myself into a seat, in a row of black chairs connected by a small hinge along one side.  We call them a pew.  That’s church speak.  They’re really just uncomfortable, black chairs with a slight cushion to ease the back on those days when time stands still.

Here we sit.  The older ones remaining, as little ones have left for nursery, ready to take in the Sunday sermon.  Me, a bustle of movement until this moment.  And now that I’ve stopped, I collapse. My days and moments, leading up to this one, have in fact been peppered with much motion, activity and energy.  Emotional energy, physical energy with all our familial comings and goings, events, visitations, preparations and the like.  All that energy exerted.  Wears me out.  Add to all the busyness the stress of four kids, a messy house and a bunch of stray cats that sit meowing on my doorstep.

Hungry, as usual.  Well, join the crowd.

It has been a wild few days of fear and anxiousness and uncertainty.   And that’s just speaking of the boy.  He sits now, as still as a statue.  And I feel him lean into me.  He, who has uttered those dreaded words a mother fears hearing.  Those words that tear a mother in two, sometimes.  Words about who he is and who he is not.  What he wants and what he doesn’t.  Words that sometimes are ill-spoken.  Words that cut.  And yet.  We are all learning that words are just that.


And sometimes they fail us.   A mother knows.  He is growing up,  growing into the man he intends to be.  Like it or not.  And he is trying to find himself.  Pushing back, sometimes.  Pushing away at others.  But still holding on.  And so am I.  Holding on.

And I am still trying to hold him close.

More words were exchanged the day before. Trying to sort out the tangled web of emotions from the days before.  He, with a hood pulled over his face.  Me, raw emotions and bundled nerves pleading for answers.  We two, feeling raw and exposed.  On a road of good intentions, going nowhere fast.  I concede him the victory.  Whatever that means.  And then I walk away, determined to let it all go.  And start over.

Best decision I’ve made yet.  Things start to simmer down.  And I feel the house let go a sigh of relief.  I know I have heaved a weight off my shoulders.  And so has he.  I can tell.  Small things matter most.  And his shoulders are more relaxed, of late.

We sit waiting for the sermon to begin, and I feel the weight of him.  His twelve-year old self leans in to my shoulder.  I keep my eyes fixed on the speaker at the front.  I dare not look to my left or to my right.  I don’t want to look, in case this is not real.  He wouldn’t lean against his mama in public, now would he?

But I feel him.  Heavier, now.  It is a touch of two bodies.  One I did not initiate, but will gladly accept.

And on a dare.  I reach out my hand, move it down to his.  And I feel for the hand he has shoved so deeply inside his Sunday best trousers.  The black ones I ironed for him just last evening while we watched a family movie.  That he opted out of because it was too tame.  It was too childish.

And I feel his hand there.

I grab onto those fingers, tentatively.  And I keep my hand over his.  All the while, looking forward.  Afraid to break a delicate bubble that has so gently appeared before me.  Rising.  An apparition.

And I know he feels his mother’s love over top his hand.  Because he draws out his rough, Man-child hand and slips it into mine.  Curling his fingers inside my hand.  Not too tightly.  For that might indicate weakness.  No.  Just slack enough to prove his manliness is intact, but that his boyishness is still there.

And to say my heart swells, an understatement.

Because a mother knows.  That a child is still a child sometimes.  Even when they are becoming a Man.

Joy is awk-waaard…

Sitting on a rickety wooden rail beside a sea of balls, one gets to see life as it is really lived out.  It is a vantage point like no other, really.  One must sit as quiet as a bird on a limb so as not to miss a thing.  For conversations like these are quick and to-the-point, especially when boys are doing the talking.

There are two of them playing, these curious boy-creatures so rough and tumble,  one boy whom I’ve known since birth, the other I am quietly observing for the first time.  The former is my nephew, a little imp with golden hair.  Although his angelic halo has ceased to fool me into thinking there is innocence in that crowning glory.  I wasn’t born yesterday.

To set the scene, it is supper time, and bellies are getting hungry.   Nephew has already asked me for cookies twice.  I was only able to distract him once with a roll, and even that was a challenge.  So when nephew sees the popcorn chicken, sitting there in that neat little Styrofoam container on the ledge, he does what any hungry little boy would do.  He lifts the lid to inhale the aroma.  Just a little sniff, and then a quick look to see if anyone is watching.  Perhaps the other boy wouldn’t notice?

He is just about to swipe a golden nugget of greasy goodness, when the other boy looks and then sees that his meal is about to be eaten by another.  Alarm bells go off.  The boy yells, “Hey those are my nuggets,” which startles my nephew out of his reverie and cause him to jerk his fingers away from the prize.  But it was what he said next, at the ripe old age of four, which made me chuckle.  As he walked away from that temptation, stealing not even a backwards glance at what he could have had, he whispered this word in a feather-soft voice.


Thoughts on a boy’s life… enough is enough

I am quickly gathering up things for a late supper (staff meetings always throw me off-schedule), whilst putting away groceries and gathering up odds and ends.  My son is talking to his father about the boy, formerly known as his best friend, who is still currently his “casual friend” in spite of their dwindling list of commonalities.  So, word has it that said “casual friend”, who not only won the provincial foul-shooting basketball championship title for 2012, has also scored himself a new pair of $120.00 sneakers.  Which his parents paid for.  With their hard-earned money.  And, to add injury to insult, he is also acquiring another new pair of sneakers in the near future for basketball which will cost a couple hundred more dollars.  And all this is burning my son up inside and turning him slightly green with envy.

Me thinks it is time for another mother-son letter…

Why is it so hard to put your finger on the right words?  And, why is raising kids such persistent, never-ending hard work?  You think you nail it (see yesterday’s post), and the next day, there is yet more work to be done.

Ah, such is life.

My son is discovering himself, and his place in the world.  He is learning that he cannot be the best at everything, and neither can he have the best of everything.  But, what he just doesn’t get is this: why can some people have the luxury of having their cake and eating it too?  Why does life work out so that some people get all the luck?  How come some people can have the best and also be the best?

Why is life so unfair?

Good question.  Most adults I know have a hard time answering this one.

My son is a very intelligent boy.  He does very well in school, he is a talented piano player and a skilled illustrator.  He can build with his hands in a way that causes me to marvel.  He has excellent comprehension.  And impeccably good grooming, remarkable for a boy of eleven years of age.

However, he is an average to (at times) below-average athlete.  And athletics is where it is at when you are eleven.  Especially with his group of athletically motivated friends and classmates.

He struggles with this.  A lot.

He is insecure about himself and he tends to be very self-conscious about his abilities, appearance and interests.  He so badly wants to fit in.  Fit in with the guys who are above-average, that is.  They are the power-holders, the movers and shakers.  They dictate who is “in” and who is “out”.  They pick the teams.


I want my son to believe that he is enough.  That his personality is enough, his interests are enough, his talents are enough, his character traits are enough and his abilities are enough. That his personal possessions are already enough to satisfy and meet his needs.  That the amount of money in one’s bank account cannot dictate what is enough.

Enough is enough.

I want him to own self-confidence. Yet, although I want him think that the sky is the limit, I want him to shoot for goals that are achievable. Possible.  Within reach.  And I want what he achieves to be fulfilling to him, a personal victory.  I don’t want him to feel he has to add up to anyone else’s standards of success.  I want him to measure himself against his own merit, and then to succeed at what he sets out to do.  And although I want him to be sincerely humble, I wish for him to be quietly proud of that success.

I don’t want him to go through what I have gone through most of my life: feeling “less than” others around me because of what I am not.  Rather, I want to instill in him and my other children that their cup is full and running over.  What they need is within reach; they have what it takes.

It has taken a long time for me to believe this little thought, as it applies to me personally: that I have what it takes and that I have what I need within my reach to achieve my dreams.  We all need to believe this about ourselves.  To do otherwise is to settle for less than we are capable of living.  To believe we are not enough is enough to disable us from living up to our full potential.  We are not gifted with the ability of seeing into the future,  and as such, we cannot ever give up hope.  We die trying, if need be.  To try is better than to sit and fade.

We are worth more than we think we are worth.  We are precious and valuable in God’s eyes.  We as humans are created and designed with enough stuff to achieve our full potential.  By God’s grace, I am enough.  And in the same token, my children are also enough. I pray this belief hits home sooner with my kids than it has with me.  That their life is always lived out in quiet self-confidence, and that faith, hope and love are their guiding light.

My four children are loved, cared and provided for in ways that some children only dream about.  They are encouraged, corrected, disciplined and cheered on by two parents that are committed to their well-being.  They may falter, but we are there to help them get back on their feet again.

And, although that may not be enough for them to feel fully whole at the present, I pray that our love and dedication to their upbringing carries them until that time when it is enough.  When love conquers all.

My wish: that they see that life is what you make it, using the time God has given you here on this earth to be all that you can be and all that you were designed to be.  That good things come to those that wait.  Although waiting is never easy.   But then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.